What the ‘Djokovic Affair’ Revealed About Australia

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Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1 player in men’s tennis, had a lot at stake going into this year’s Australian Open. If he were to win, the Grand Slam would be his 21st, making him the most decorated male tennis player in history.

But he was not vaccinated against Covid-19, flying in the face of Australia’s rules, and he was detained on arrival. Despite challenging that decision through the courts, he was ultimately deported.

In Australia, the “Djokovic affair” has become about a lot more than athletes and vaccines — it has prompted conversations about the country’s aggressive border policy, isolationism and treatment of migrants.

On today’s episode

Damien Cave, the Australia bureau chief for The New York Times.

Police officers standing guard as pro-refugee protesters were removed from a hotel in Melbourne, Australia, where Novak Djokovic was believed to be held.Credit…Loren Elliott/Reuters

Background reading

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison latched on to the Djokovic case. But with an election looming, it’s not clear that it was a political winner.

  • Novak Djokovic lost his bid to stay in Australia to a government determined to make him a symbol of unvaccinated celebrity entitlement; to an immigration law that gives godlike authority to border enforcement; and to a public outcry, in a nation of rule followers.

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Damien Cave contributed reporting.

The Daily is made by Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, M.J. Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guillemette, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Kaitlin Roberts, Rachelle Bonja, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Anita Badejo, Rob Szypko, Elisheba Ittoop, Chelsea Daniel, Mooj Zadie, Patricia Willens and Rowan Niemisto.

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